The Asian Destruction Bank?

Feature story - 7 May, 2007
When one of Asia’s leading institutions says it’s serious about funding the solutions to climate change that makes us happy. But when we discover that this commitment goes no further than a glossy brochure, we can't let that pass.

Greenpeace activists and youth climate action group, the Solar Generation, stage a mobile exhibition inside the Asian Development Bank's Annual Meeting. Greenpeace is calling on the Bank to honour the Kyoto Protocol, stop investing in coal and start investing in renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions in Asia, the continent that will suffer most from the effects of climate change.

The ADB is supposed to help not harm.  Its mission is to fight poverty.  It can (and does) wield great influence over energy technology choices - its funding acts as a catalyst, attracting additional private funding and its policies carry serious weight with member countries.  They are ideally placed to fund an energy revolution, but so far ADB has largely favoured coal and other dirty technologies, while only putting a token effort into the renewable energy projects. 

The meeting

The 40th annual meeting of the ADB was held in Kyoto, Japan -- birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding international treaty that obligates a reduction of greenhouse gases globally. This year marks the tenth year since the Protocol was passed, and it wasn't a wild notion to think the ADB's conference would attempt to measure up to the legacy of Kyoto.

We arrived in Kyoto with very specific demands for the ADB to phase out coal, dramatically scale up its renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives and guarantee that the US$1 billion annual clean energy pipeline that it put together would remain free of coal. And certainly we had fun getting our message across.

Kimonos and 'love shirts'

After our request for space to hold an exhibition of climate impacts was turned down, we decided to take the exhibition on the road using the widest T-shirts ever designed, which gave ADB officials a serious dilemma since it wasn't exactly a banner protest and neither was it an exhibit. We dubbed the wide berth T-shirts, 'love shirts' for their partnership-creating qualities.

Solar Generation students also surprised the meeting when, at a big dinner banquet hosted by the ADB president, they turned up as six mysterious kimono girls in complete costume and with complete makeup. They only revealed their identity when they stopped in front of ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda and elegantly opened their Japanese fans, which together read "Clean Energy Now! ADB Quit Coal!" They stayed for the whole evening, charming and then disarming the Bank's Governors who fell over themselves for the photo op. The girls had taken 5 hours to get ready and couldn't drink during the performance because of the difficulty of getting out of the costumes. The response they received proved that it was well worth it though as they engaged the Bank's highest officials in debates about climate change and the clean energy solutions that the Bank could enable.

  Kimonos for the climate - click to enlarge.

Kimonos for the climate. 

( click to enlarge

© Greenpeace/Noda

The Solar Generation students had also created beautiful bookmarks using Japan's national flower, the cherry blossom, to symbolise the impacts of climate change as the blossom was a lot earlier this year due to the warmer winter. The bookmarks carried Solar Generation's demands to the ADB and the students handed them out to Bank delegates with helpful advice that they could read the messaging when the meeting got boring.

It's amazing to see the difference we can make inside such an institution as the ADB. Our decision to combine a series of highly visual direct communication activities with the expert policy dialogue really had an impact on the decision makers at the meeting.

Several steps backwards

The truth is, the ADB had actually put together a series of clean energy initiatives that held a lot of promise in response to the pressure we had sustained. We made sure the ADB knew that we welcomed the new measures and it seemed like our creative enforcement of our demands in the opening days of the meeting were working.

On the penultimate day of the ADB's meeting, however, things began to fall apart. The Bank's Board Chair Koji Omi, also Japan's Finance Minister, was pushing nuclear energy as a solution to climate change as well as disgracefully dissing the Kyoto Protocol - the only show in town when it comes to giving us a sustainable future.

How unfortunate. The clean energy initiatives and funding commitments the ADB unveiled in this meeting are clear steps forward. But continued support for coal and tolerance for nuclear, however, has taken the ADB five steps backward. The only pathway to Asia's sustainable future is signposted 'renewable energy and energy efficiency' and we call on the ADB to lead Asia down that road.

Take action

Tell the ADB to stop funding climate change and start funding the solution, renewable energy.


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